“If there’s any legacy for me on this bloody earth, I want it to be true.”
Usually I’m a little skeptical about books that have been heavily hyped. It’s easy to be let down when you get your hopes up over a book. I took a punt on this one, and asked a work colleague to pick it up for me while she was in New York. It paid off. Hell did it pay off. I started this book before bed, and read the whole thing before morning. It was well worth being tired at work the next day.
Rating: 5 stars!
Read me for the:
- m/m romance done right
- Snarky, well written new adults
- Laugh out loud prose
- Gratuitous references to historical queers
- Fleshed out side-characters
Alex Claremont-Diaz is as royal as an American gets. He’s handsome and charismatic, smart and young and easy to market. He’d be a PR team’s dream, if it wasn’t for one thing. His ridiculous rivalry with an actual royal, Prince Henry of Wales. After another altercation turns into a media circus and threatens to impact US and British relations, their families – and their heads of state – have had enough. It’s time for damage control, playing the incident off as two friends getting carried away, and a fake Instagram friendship turns into something more real than either of the boys ever anticipated. Before he knows what’s happened, a fierce rivalry with the stuck-up British royal has turned into a secret romance with an un-stuffy, soft and nerdy Henry that could derail Alex’s mother’s presidential campaign and throw two nations into chaos. Or maybe, just maybe, it can save Alex and Henry, and teach the world how to be a little more brave.
What did I think?
This was another book that I read in a haze. I intended to read a chapter before I went to sleep, and suddenly it was three am and I was in love with these two ridiculous boys. I don’t know how it happened, it just did. I don’t like romance novels, usually. Not that I have anything against them, of course. I think the genre is crazy creative and I respect any genre that consistently demands happily ever afters. But I’m aromantic, so a lot of the main-stay features of romance novels just don’t land with me. Red, White and Royal Blue landed, crawled into my heart and made a home there. The characters felt so real that I couldn’t help but love them. I’m a sucker for epistolary too, and nobody warned me that they spend a good portion of the book sending gorgeous emails to each other, referencing historical queer figures and generally being cute as fuck.
Henry and Alex felt like the new adults they were supposed to be. They had sex when they ‘should’ have been talking, misunderstood each other constantly, but made a conscious decision to be together. They were discovering themselves while they discovered each other, and that was a really beautiful thing to witness. I loved being able to read a story where two queer characters chose to be together, and to be authentic, even when it would have been easier to be apart. It helped that I love enemies-to-lovers as a trope, and seeing them forced to see each other in a new way was as funny as it was cute. Henry especially had to go through one hell of a character arc to reach the end of this book, and it felt like a love-story between two men and a love-story between one man and his identity and his relationship with the world too.
The representation in this book is written so well. It talks about coming out and being forced out sensitively but honestly, and the way it covers depression and its impact not only on the person going through it but with their family is very respectfully done. But for me the most important piece of representation in this was Alex coming to terms with his bisexuality. I’ve been through that like millions of other people, and reading about a boy who took a while to realise that he wasn’t straight, and had to adapt to his new sexuality on the fly whilst dealing with a hundred other conflicts and huge, growing feelings made me feel ridiculously seen.
My housemate was away when I read this, and honestly I’m glad. She probably would have been really annoyed by me cackling maniacally in bed at three in the morning. The prose was downright hilarious at points, and the characterisation nailed the age that Henry and Alex were supposed to be. Bits of this could one hundred percent have happened in my friendship group, and I took great pleasure in snapping photos of bits of dialogue or texts to send to my friends, knowing they’d find them as funny and relatable too.
The ending of this book is powerful too, speaking about coming out and being forced out, and covering the way that the internet especially can interact with their heroes being different from how they were perceived before. It’s been a month since I read Red, White and Royal Blue, and “History, huh?” still gives me chills, let alone the other quotes I remember occasionally and need to lie down after. This is the kind of book that I will come back to again and again. I can see myself picking it up on a bad day to cheer myself up, reaching to Henry and Alex as old friends.
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